"Some of their opponents do feel Washington is one club badly hurt by the lack of exhibition games. It will take time to adjust from Dale Hunter's system to Adam Oates's. McPhee said that when the Devils made changes last season (with Oates on staff), 'It took 16-20 games before they were doing it right.'"
After 16 games last season the Devils had 66 more to hone their skills in the Oates system after getting to the point of "doing it right." This year, no team has the luxury of what amounts to a 16-20 game shakedown cruise. After 16 games last season, the Devils were 8-7-1, but then again, they started 3-1-1 in their first five games, not 1-3-1.
Over their last 66 games the Devils were 40-21-5 and still finished sixth in the Eastern Conference. This year the Caps will have fewer than half that to make up any ground lost over a 16-game break-in period by learning how to do things right in this system.
They can mitigate that problem by speeding up the learning curve, but based on early results the chances of that seem iffy. However, if they do not speed things up, the last 32 games of the regular season might be less of a chase for the 2013 playoffs than it will be an extended training camp in advance of the 2013-2014 season.